Twins 8, Orioles 4
Daniel Cabrera is at the point in his career where many of his predecessors have been exposed. Several young Baltimore Orioles pitchers have flashed brilliance as rookies over the past few years, only to be revealed as one-trick ponies once opponents got familiar with them.
Cabrera's 15th major league start was his worst -- an 8-4 drubbing by the Minnesota Twins before an announced 41,833 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This performance could have signaled Cabrera as another Josh Towers, Ryan Kohlmeier or Jay Spurgeon. Yet after allowing all eight runs and 11 hits in five-plus innings, Cabrera looked nothing like a scared rookie, worried that the secret to his success is out.
Cabrera (8-4), baseball's winningest rookie pitcher, stood in front of his locker and smiled as reporters asked what went wrong. How was every Twins starter able to get at least one hit? Why did it seem Cabrera's fastball tailed over the plate rather than away from it?
Cabrera had a simple answer.
"Everybody's got a bad day. That was mine," he said, as if he knew he could turn around and whip the Twins tomorrow. "I don't want to remember anything about that game."
It was easy to locate the cause of Cabrera's bad day -- it was right over home plate.
"He just didn't seem to have it," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He couldn't get the ball [inside]. . . . Everything seemed to be in the middle of the plate, and in the big leagues, you're going to get hit. I don't know if he was trying to be too fine. You throw 110 miles per hour and you throw it down the middle of the plate, you're going to get hit."
Shannon Stewart lined the first of Cabrera's 28 first-inning pitches past first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. After Nick Punto reached on a swinging bunt, Stewart scored on a deep sacrifice fly by rookie of the year hopeful Lew Ford. Two batters later, Torii Hunter drove in Punto with a hard single to left field.
The Twins (54-44) swung and missed at one pitch that inning.
Cabrera struggled even more in the second inning, throwing 31 pitches. With two outs and runners at the corners, Ford lined a shot back through the box to score Mike Cuddyer to make it 3-0.
Rookie cleanup hitter Justin Morneau followed and Cabrera had him out in front of a 2-1 breaking ball that Morneau fouled off. Cabrera tried to throw the same pitch again. He failed.
The 79-mph curveball hung out over the plate and Morneau extended his arms and blasted a 395-foot three-run homer onto Eutaw Street (the second player to do so this season and the 35th since the stadium opened in 1992).
It was the fifth home run in 67 at-bats for Morneau, who played in the Futures Game for standout minor leaguers during the all-star break.
Cabrera "had been throwing well, the numbers showed it," Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was nice to get off to a good start against him."
Down 6-0, Cabrera was on unfamiliar ground; he had allowed more than three runs in a start just twice before, never more than five. In his previous three home starts, he had allowed two runs over 222/3 innings.
"He stuck everything out over the plate," Mazzilli said. "He tried to get in and everything stayed out. . . . He's not a guy who really goes in and throws all over the place. That's why he's been so successful as a young kid."
It will be interesting to see how Cabrera battles back. His next start is scheduled for this week at the American League-leading New York Yankees. Cabrera said he is not worried, and Mazzilli said he had no reservations about it.
"You can't expect for him to go out there every time and give you a great outing," Palmeiro said.
The Orioles (44-53) scored twice in the second off starter Kyle Lohse on run-scoring hits by Palmeiro and Javy Lopez. They answered Minnesota's single runs in the fourth and fifth innings with ones of their own.
The Twins' bullpen stopped any further threats. The unheralded trio of J.C. Romero, Grant Balfour and Aaron Fultz held the Orioles to two hits over four innings, throwing 38 of 58 pitches for strikes.
"Gardenhire went to his bullpen at the right time," Palmeiro said. "His bullpen came in and shut the door on us."
Orioles Notes: With the Tampa Bay Devil Rays losing earlier in the day, the Orioles missed an opportunity to jump back into sole possession of third place in the AL East for the first time since June 15. . . . Designated hitter David Newhan went 0 for 4, only the fourth time he has gone hitless in 35 games as an Oriole.